A major obstacle is my allergy to grass pollen. Those tiny misshaped granules that help procreate the many species of grasses wreck havoc on my immune system. The little mast cells that are the soldiers in the first line of defence in the mucus membranes bombard my nose, eyes and skin with histamine, setting off a cascade of mucus production.
Membrane cells secrete that viscous sticky stuff called 'mucus', chock full of proteoglycans, salts and enzymes that trap and degrade small foreign particles and agents as a protective mechanism. Yet, a hypersensivity to certain allergens such as grass pollen can elicit mucus production like no tomorrow and the nose becomes a running faucet. In that instance, it becomes less of a friendly 'protective' evolutionary function and more a nuisance and downright pain in the nose. It rightly earns the name: 'snot'.
This leads to the question: What does one do when he/she encounters an attack on all fronts by enemy allergens and the battle wages to the point where you can't keep up with the mucus production by snuffling it back up your sinuses?
Well, the old remedy that all outdoorsy people are familiar with: the 'snot rocket'.
Just aim well.
I read the following this morning in my recent issue of New Scientist in the section: The Last Word, where readers submit questions which are answered by other readers. Here it was; the 'snot rocket'.
Is it coincidence a human finger fits exactly into a human nostril. If not, why does my mum tell me not to do it?Note: I recall commenting to a close friend once "You know how close and trusting we are when I can pick the buggers from your nose." Better all out of the nose than half out........
Your mother may not approve, but there is a way to clear your nose without sticking anything inside it. It's called the "snot rocket". Just push against the side of one nostril to close it off, take a deep breath, close your mouth and exhale as hard and sharply as you can through your other nostril. You'll be amazed how fast the contents shoot out. Just make sure you tilt your head away from your body to avoid peppering yourself.
Nose-clearing tactics like the snot rocket mean there is no life-or-death reason for the co-evolution of digging digits and large, inviting nostrils. After all, nose blockage is easily managed by breathing through your mouth. In fact, a blocked nose is really only a problem if something gets lodged near your nasal bones, where it is dangerously close to your brain. That is a region where human fingers are too podgy to be of any use. A rather thrilling story of a primatologist, some tweezers and an engorged Ugandan tick comes to mind.
Sexual selection might have favoured the relationship of finger to nostril if, say, females in the Pleistocene preferred mating with males who picked their noses, or if males and females picked each other's noses in a courtship ritual. However, that would be taking reciprocal grooming a little far.
So we must conclude that, yes, it is mere coincidence that your fingers fit so nicely into your nostrils. I doubt the made-for-each-other argument is going to change your mum's opinion of rhinotillexomania. I suggest you demonstrate the snot rocket instead and see what she says.
Holly Dunsworth, State College, Pennsylvania, US